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Ben Roethlisberger Says Steelers Management Was Split on His Return for Final Season

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 22, 2022

AP Photo/Colin E. Braley, File

Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said his return for a final season in 2021 wasn't a unanimous decision throughout the organization.

Roethlisberger explained to Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in an interview released Friday there was a wide range of feelings between team president Art Rooney II, recently retired general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin.

"It was mostly Kevin. He was ready to move on," Big Ben said. 'I think Mike was a little ready to move on, but I think he was OK with me coming back. I think Mr. Rooney really wanted me to come back last year to play."

Roethlisberger's arm strength began to significantly dwindle during the last few years of his career, which raised questions about whether the Steelers should bring him back for 2021. They ultimately did after he agreed to a $5 million pay cut.

His numbers during his farewell campaign weren't bad—64.5 percent completion rate with 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 16 games—but his inability to stretch the field limited Pittsburgh's offense, which ranked 23rd in yards per game (315.4).

The 40-year-old Ohio native told Cook his body feels like he could've continued to play, but he's happy with how his career wrapped up.

"I thought I went out on my terms," Roethlisberger said. "I never wanted to stay too long. I know some people might think I did. 'You stayed last year.' But I thought I played pretty well last year, to be honest."

Pittsburgh spent the offseason reworking their quarterback room. They signed former Chicago Bears starter Mitchell Trubisky in free agency and selected Kenny Pickett out of the University of Pittsburgh in the first round of the 2022 draft.

Trubisky and Pickett will be joined by Mason Rudolph, who spent the past four years as a reserve behind Roethlisberger, in a quarterback competition throughout training camp.

Regardless of who wins that battle to start Week 1, Pickett is viewed as the long-term replacement for Big Ben, who told Cook he met with the team's first-round pick in May and delivered some simple advice: "You don't have to go out and be special."

"It was the same when I came in," Roethlisberger said. "I didn't have to be special. There were times we did special things, but we had such a great defense. We had Jerome [Bettis]. We had a veteran line."

The next stop for Roethlisberger is likely the Pro Football Hall of Fame after an 18-year career in Pittsburgh that included six Pro Bowl selections, two Super Bowl titles and the 2004 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.

"I did it for a long time," he told Cook. "I know doing it for a long time doesn't mean that you get in, but, again, you look at the wins and losses. I think I did it at a high enough level for a long enough time that I think it would be pretty cool to get in. It is a special thing. That is one special place and a special accomplishment."

Meanwhile, the Steelers will begin a new era Sept. 11 when they open the regular season with a trip to face the reigning AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals.

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